Cavs Make Yao's Return Unsuccessful

Tuesday, March 6th 2007, 7:48 am
By: News On 6

Yao Ming was back in the Houston Rockets' lineup. Too bad he didn't feel like a pro.

Yao struggled in his first game after missing more than two months with a leg injury. LeBron James had 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Cavaliers past Yao and the Houston Rockets 91-85 Monday night.

The Chinese center's numbers paled in comparison: 16 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and five turnovers. The 7-foot-6 Yao had just one practice since recovering from a broken bone under his knee and it showed.

``In the second quarter, third quarter, I was almost like a high school player,'' Yao said. ``Sometimes, Cleveland would just steal the ball from my hand.''

Wearing a black brace on his right knee, Yao looked slow and out of synch on offense, letting a crisp pass tip off his hands and missing open shots.

``Uneven, which is to be expected,'' Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. ``But he's got to cut down on his turnovers. We can't play well if he goes right back to what he was doing before he got hurt, which is being a high turnover guy. It's impossible to have offensive rhythm.''

Cleveland's rhythm was just fine, especially James' performance. He scored more than 30 points for the fourth straight game. The Cavaliers have won three of those four.

In other games Monday night, it was: Miami 88, Atlanta 81; San Antonio 88, the Los Angeles Clippers 74; Utah 120, Charlotte 95; Golden State 111, Detroit 93; and Orlando 99, Milwaukee 81.

James got help from Larry Hughes, who had been struggling until recently. Hughes had 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds and said this is the most comfortable he's felt since joining the Cavaliers as a free agent before last season.

With rookie Daniel Gibson out with a sprained toe, Hughes played some point guard, which he said he'd like to do more often.

``I'm able to create,'' he said. ``I'm able to get everybody involved, feel the flow of the game, know what plays we can run.''

James wouldn't mind seeing that as well.

``If he keeps playing the way he is playing now, we might have to keep him in there,'' James said.

The Rockets, who have lost four of five, cut it to 84-82 on Tracy McGrady's jumper with 1:34 left. But Zydrunas Ilgauskas put back James' missed jumper on the next possession to protect the lead.

Ilgauskas then stole ball from Yao, who fell to the floor in a heap. Hughes tossed an alley-oop to James on the other end and he slammed in it for an 88-82 lead.

Yao, who said he fell on his elbow to avoid landing on his right knee, got up with help from a trainer, hobbled off, but returned to the game.

Heat 88, Hawks 81

At Miami, the Heat (30-29) got above .500 for the first time in nearly four months. Eddie Jones had 14 of his season-high 21 points in the final quarter and Shaquille O'Neal added 14 points and nine rebounds on the eve of his 35th birthday.

Gary Payton had 11 points and seven rebounds and James Posey added 10 points for Miami, which got promising news earlier in the day from star guard Dwyane Wade. Wade announced he will not have immediate surgery to repair his dislocated left shoulder and will attempt to return by the end of the season.

Josh Smith and Anthony Johnson each had 16 points for Atlanta, which dropped its sixth straight.

Warriors 111, Pistons 93

Jason Richardson scored a season-high 29 points to help the Warriors end a six-game losing streak. The win also ended Golden State's seven-game road slide, and gave the Warriors a lopsided sweep of the season series. They beat Detroit 111-79 at home on Nov. 11.

The Warriors had lost 11 straight at the Palace.

Detroit was missing Rasheed Wallace (left foot) for the third game in a row, but the Warriors got Stephen Jackson (turf toe) back after four games.

Lindsey Hunter scored 20 points for Detroit.

Magic 99, Bucks 81

Hedo Turkoglu had a season-high 25 points and Trevor Ariza added 20 for the host Magic. Dwight Howard had 10 points and nine rebounds as Orlando ended a three-game losing streak.

The Magic shot 50 percent in the first half and led by as many as 20 points.

Michael Redd led Milwaukee with 15 points, but shot just 3-of-16 from the field.

Spurs 88, Clippers 74

At Los Angeles, the Spurs extended their season-high winning streak to nine games when Manu Ginobili scored 16 points and Tim Duncan had 12 rebounds. Beno Udrih added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs, whose reserves outscored their starters 49-39.

The Spurs led all the way in their third one-sided win over the Clippers in as many meetings this season. The Clippers' 74 points equaled their lowest score of the season.

The Spurs won handily even without guard Tony Parker. Their second-leading scorer with an 18.7 average, Parker missed his second consecutive game because of a strained left hip.

Corey Maggette led the Clippers with 19 points.

Jazz 120, Bobcats 95

Mehmet Okur scored 32 points as the Jazz defeated the Bobcats for the first time at home. Charlotte won its previous two visits to Salt Lake City.

In just 31 minutes of play, Okur tied a career high with 13 field goals in 15 attempts, most of them on perimeter jump shots. Reserve Matt Harpring continued his scoring outburst with 19 points and has averaged 16 during Utah's current four-game winning streak.

Gerald Wallace scored 33 points, but no other Bobcat scored more than 12. The Bobcats, who are in the fifth game of a six-game Western Conference road trip, are mired in a six-game losing streak.